"Mary I of England" (detail) by Antonis Mor, 1554
For centuries, the English monarchy was male. The very image of the country’s ruler was a warrior on a horse, sword held high. But several women shattered that royal glass ceiling, serving as the head of the British military, acting as supreme head of the Church of England, and ensuring the survival of the monarchy.
Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger leads an assumption-challenging survey of female reigns, from the first crowned queen of England to the record-breaking longevity of Elizabeth II. She examines how each monarch faced challenges such as war, rebellions, changing relationship with Parliament, and ongoing social and political upheavals. She covers the strengths and weaknesses of these reigning queens and how each redefined the role of the ruler and nature of the monarchy.
February 3 Mary I, the First Crowned Queen
Mary Tudor was the first crowned regnant Queen of England. She staged a successful revolt against Jane Grey, who had been proclaimed queen, gathering supporters from across the country and claiming the crown. She redefined the monarchy, passing laws that clarified her power and rights were equal to her male predecessors. She also accomplished significant military, fiscal, and social reform. Explore how Mary’s reign changed the face of the monarchy forever.
February 10 Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen
From the start, Elizabeth I created a carefully designed image to position herself as the rightful leader of her people. She adopted a moderate approach to religion to settle the religious chaos of the previous two reigns. Selecting the best team of ministers, she provided the stability that enabled the nation to thrive. Examine how Elizabeth overcame challenges from home and abroad to become the longest-ruling Tudor monarch.
February 17 Mary II and Anne, British Queens
Mary II’s ascension to the throne was part Protestant power-grab, part Parliamentary overreach, and part recognition that a woman on the throne could be a positive alternative. Mary (daughter of the soon-to-be deposed Catholic King James II) and her husband William of Orange were invited by Parliament to invade England and take the throne as the only joint rulers in British history. Trace how Mary II oversaw the development of the constitutional monarchy and cabinet government, and how her reign laid the foundation for the Acts of Union that united England and Scotland in the reign of Queen Anne.
February 24 Victoria, the Queen of Europe
Victoria came to the throne at a time when the monarchy was unpopular and republicanism was growing in Britain. She oversaw and supported technological growth and social reform. Along with Prince Albert, she expanded the monarchy’s role in supporting charities and the arts and offered the reassuring image of a happy family on the throne. Learn why her reign is said to have saved the monarchy and how she came to be known all over the world as “the” queen.
March 3 Elizabeth II, the Jubilee Queen
Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne facing challenges of economic and social upheaval following World War II and provided a calm presence that helped chaos turn to prosperity. She carefully avoided political controversies and provided a stable presence that has overcome feelings of republicanism. Examine how the queen has promoted the Commonwealth and continues to overcome challenges, maintaining the popularity and continued existence of the monarchy.
Lloyd-Stanger is the former manager of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
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